Thursday, 27 June 2013

Anyone for tennis?

Tennis and fashion have had a longer companionship than many may realise. It was long before the Williams sisters strutted out onto the grass courts of SW19 clad in oversized earrings and self designed outfits that players were being judged on what they were wearing, and how what they were wearing influenced the masses watching.

The tennis dress, a staple of many a woman's wardrobe over the summer was first conceptualised by the mother of modern fashion: Coco Chanel, who in her own words "freed the body" radically altering female sporting attire from full length dresses complete with trains and underskirts to the loose fitting, drop waist designs in jersey or light crepe, traits which remain fundamental until this day. Chanel pioneered modern day leisurewear. She invented sport suits for herself, desiring ease of movement in her outdoor activities and yet initiated a global phenomenon as others pulled inspiration from the designs she had devised. Chanel's work lead to the 1920's flapper dress (essentially an extravagantly embellished early tennis dress), the shortening of hemlines and loosening of the waist in general daywear and exposing women's arms to the shoulder for the very first time. Driving such an alteration in accepted style can be easily overlooked today where thanks to celebrities style fads can be established overnight, but what Chanel achieved is the rough equivalent to someone making the mankini acceptable beachwear or finding a valid reason to wear Crocs. 

With its middle class aura tennis is a sport that particularly inspires luxury design. Wimbledon, tennis' most prolific competition, dictates an all-white dress code which in addition to being a colour that generally keeps one cool in the sun has a history with much less practical roots. The impracticality of wearing white was used to exclude the lower classes from playing in the early days, leaving the game exclusive to those with money who could be so decadent as to wear clothes that stain incredibly easily. This further extended to other 'upper class' sporting activities. Look at the sports that require a uniformed white outfit and they will most likely have royal backgrounds. Fencing and cricket for example. The elitist aspect of 'Tennis Whites' has gone on to inspire today's luxury fashion designers, the Spring/Summer 2010 collection from French fashion house Hermès had tennis at its core. See the full collection here.


 Similarly in store right now you can find:

This Alexander McQueen spine lace dress has an elegant loose pleat and ends halfway to the knee, available half price at for £625.

For those wanting the tennis look, but fear accentuating your hips with the dropped waist, try a loose waist a la the early Chanel tennis dresses with this simple shift from Joseph at Net-A-Porter for £295. Wear with smart flats for day or an ankle exposing heel for night. 

The Paris based couturier Azzedine Alaïa uses the dropped waist tennis style dress as his signature piece.  The dress comes in a range of muted colours, white, black, navy, pale pink and neck lines and arm lengths vary slightly. The dresses are heavy and made to last a lifetime. However you will need to shell out with this particular Calypso dress coming in at £2,020 from

If those are a touch pricey, mid level or high-street equivalents can be found in the likes of Lacoste and Topshop. The tennis look can be achieved by remembering to keep the outfit:

  • white
  • dropped or loose waisted
  • with arms on show
Follow the rules and avoid excessive grunting and you are pretty much sorted. 

Is that Cristo Clear


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